Tuesday 23 July 2019

Where are they now?

John Treacy
John Treacy

JOHN TREACY (Former athlete)

THE Irish athletes setting off for the World Championships in Moscow should take inspiration from the feats of John Treacy in the 1980 Olympic Games in the same city.

From Villierstown, Co Waterford, John was in terrific form that year, and was entered in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.

Running in the first heat of the 10,000m, he recalls: "It was the hottest part of the day, but I can remember with a lap to go, hitting the kerb. I don't remember falling, but I collapsed from the heat and was wheeled off on a stretcher. That was on a Friday. The following Monday I ran and qualified from the 5,000 heats, on Wednesday I ran in the 5,000 semi-finals, and got into the final on Friday, in which I finished seventh."

It was some recovery, but then Treacy was made of tough stuff, having won the World Cross-country Championship in 1978 in Glasgow, and in 1979 in Limerick. While at Providence College, he finished second in the NCAA cross-country, won the 3-mile indoor championship and came second in the outdoor 10,000m.

"Stamina was always my thing," he says. "From my genetics, I wasn't a sprinter, but I could go forever." Before the Moscow Games he had won the 5,000m in the BLE Championships in 13.22, which is still a championship record. The week after Moscow, he stole the thunder of Steve Ovett at Crystal Palace. "He had won the 800m in Moscow and I destroyed his homecoming by beating him in the 5,000. He was waving to the crowd, and I slipped in under his hands!" That can still be seen on YouTube under Arrogance Personified.

Treacy says that everything he learned in Moscow stood to him four years later in the Los Angeles Olympics. "I ran the 10,000 and finished ninth, but I wasn't happy, I wanted a medal. I hadn't run a Marathon before, but I had prepared for it, and I got my medal."

His advice to athletes is simple: "Concentrate and focus, get through the heats and do the best you can. Give 100 per cent and don't walk off leaving anything on that track." After that, he adds, "you always need the element of luck, even at the highest level."

Treacy, who has been Irish Sports Council CEO since 1999, is still active. He runs five miles three times a week, cycles 50k at weekends, and plays golf off 14.

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